“What’s the worst thing that can happen?”
That’s the question I now ask myself when I get scared.
It’s not something I used to do.
Before this question, when I got scared, I talked myself into quitting. I’d just avoid doing the thing that frightened me.
Of course, sometimes I had to do “it” anyway. I couldn’t back out. If I somehow got myself into a difficult spot—like committing to take a case I shouldn’t have taken—I’d look for a way out, but sometimes I just had to plunge forward. Someone was counting on me. I had to take action no matter how scared I might feel.
Other times, however, when I had a chance to avoid the fear, I’d avoid it. I’d say no. I’d back away. I’d find a way out before I got locked in.
Then someone asked me the question. “What’s the worst thing that can happen?”
That’s a powerful question, but I, as usual, had a quick answer.
“I could fail,” I said.
“So what?” he responded. “What would happen if you failed?”
“I’d lose my money or I’d be embarrassed or I’d feel guilty,” I said.
“So what?” he responded. “What does that mean? What’s the worst thing that could happen?” he pushed.
“I’d have to file for bankruptcy, my reputation would suffer irreparable damage, or the other person would be permanently harmed by my failure,” I said.
“So what?” he pushed. “What’s the worst that could happen?”
This went on for quite some time. As we talked, I realized that the worst thing wouldn’t be that bad. I’d figure out a way to make it work. I found that with each push he gave me, I’d realize that the worst thing wasn’t that bad. It wasn’t unmanageable. It wasn’t something I couldn’t handle.
Oddly, the more I thought about the worst possible things that could happen, the less bad I felt. The worst thing just wasn’t that bad.
The worst things lose much of their power when they’re discussed, thought about, and broken into their component parts. The worst things just aren’t as awful as we imagine.
The worst things gain their power over us from being unexamined. They’re bigger, stronger, and scarier when we can’t fully appreciate and understand them. They’re larger until we break them down.
Now, that’s not to say the worst things aren’t bad. They can be horrible. But when you pick them apart, break them down, and figure them out, there’s light at the end of that tunnel. Now’s the time to ask yourself, “What’s the worst thing that can happen?”